High Court Says Fraud Lawsuits Must Be Filed Within Five Years

Feb 27 2013 | 12:34pm ET

In a ruling with a potentially wide-ranging affect on government enforcement, the U.S. Supreme Court today rejected a Securities and Exchange Commission bid to extend the statute of limitations in a mutual-fund market-timing case involving a hedge fund.

The hedge fund in question, the former Folkes Asset Management—now known as Headstart Advisors—was not directly involved in the case; it settled the matter years ago. So did the mutual fund company in question, Gabelli funds. But two Gabelli executives fought the SEC lawsuit, which accused Marc Gabelli and Bruce Alpert of approving Folkes' market-timing without disclosing it to the fund's board or investors, and while at the same time denying requests to market-time from other investors.

The last allegedly improper trade took place in August 2002, but the SEC did not sue until April 2008. A lower court approved the lawsuit, arguing that the clock doesn't start ticking on the five-year statute of limitations until the SEC had a reason to know a violation occurred.

Three years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the statute for shareholder fraud suits doesn't begin to expire until investors have indications of company wrongdoing. But, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the unanimous court, the federal government is not a fraud victim, and the SEC lawsuit sought not restitution, but penalties.

"The SEC, for example, is not like an individual victim who relies on apparent injury to learn of a wrong," Roberts wrote. "Rather, a central 'mission' of the Commission is to 'investigat[e] potential violations of the federal securities laws."

"In a civil penalty action, the Government is not only a different kind of plaintiff, it seeks a different kind of relief. The discovery rule helps to ensure that the injured receive recompense. But this case involves penalties, which go beyond compensation, are intended to punish, and label defendants wrongdoers."


In Depth

Q&A: Brevan Howard’s Charlotte Valeur Talks Strategy

Sep 18 2014 | 11:18am ET

Charlotte Valeur chairs the board of Brevan Howard Credit Catalysts, an LSE listed...

Lifestyle

Hedgies Rock Out For Children's Charity

Sep 15 2014 | 8:40am ET

It's that time of year again—when hedgies trade in their spreadsheets for guitars...

Guest Contributor

Volkered: How Financial Sector Reforms are Creating Opportunities for Hedge Funds

Sep 16 2014 | 11:28am ET

New regulations have dramatically curtailed proprietary trading activity in investment...

 

Editor's Note

    Get A Sneak Peak Of The Alpha Pages

    Aug 25 2014 | 11:21am ET

    As many of you know, FINalternatives was recently acquired by the owners of Futures magazine, a firm called The Alpha Pages LLC. Today marks the soft-launch of a new sister site for both publications. As its name suggests, The Alpha Pages will cover all types of alternative investments, going far beyond the more well-known ones such as hedge funds and private equity. Read more…

 

Futures Magazine

September 2014 Cover

The London Whale: Rogue risk management

Credit default swaps brought down the London Whale and cost JPMorgan $6.2 billion. Here is how it happened.

The Alpha Pages

TAP July/August 2014 Cover

The Alpha Pages Interview: Senator Rand Paul

Senator Paul sat down in the debut series of the Alpha Pages Interview to discuss the broken tax code, regulation surrounding Bitcoin, and his plans for the 2016 Presidential election.